Enjoying A's days, Neshek knows he may not return

Enjoying A's days, Neshek knows he may not return

Enjoying A's days, Neshek knows he may not return

MINNEAPOLIS -- A's reliever Pat Neshek returned to his hometown this week, the perilous nature of the career journeyman middle reliever once again fresh in his mind.

The A's designated Neshek for assignment Aug. 26, sent him to Triple-A after he cleared waivers, and recalled him Sept. 3 after Major League rosters were expanded. He saw his first action since his return in Oakland's 18-3 rout of the Twins on Wednesday, tossing a scoreless eighth inning.

An important cog in the A's bullpen during last year's division title run, Neshek faces an uncertain future in Oakland, a fate he's stared down before with three other franchises.

But the 33-year-old right-hander understands it's all part of the business, and he said he appreciates the time he's spent in Oakland.

"It's been fun. This team, the young guys and winning ... it's the funnest team I've ever played on," Neshek said. "It's been a blast."

He compared the makeup of the A's to the Twins teams of the last decade that won six American League Central titles in nine seasons. Neshek was part of three of those teams, including the 2006 Twins, who lost to the A's in the AL Division Series in his rookie season.

"We've got a good mix of older guys that either got hurt and are having success now, and a lot of young guys who are going to be leaders and are going to make a lot of money in this game," Neshek said. "It reminds me a lot of the younger Twins teams I was on when I was coming up. We had a few veterans and a strong young presence, and they would make a trade to get other guys … it really reminds me a lot of how they built that team over there a few years ago."

Neshek was a valuable setup man for the Twins in 2006-07 before injuries cost him most of the next two seasons. He returned to pitch in 10 games in 2010, but was released before the next season. Since then, he's bounced around from San Diego to Baltimore to Oakland, and if he's not back with the A's next season, he hopes to catch on with another organization.

He's got the numbers -- a 2-1 record with a 3.58 ERA, which was at 2.34 in early August before he gave up six earned runs over three innings in his next three appearances. But he knows his job prospects won't be determined solely by his statistics.

"You could have a good year and have a couple bad outings and you never know if you'll get that shot," he said. "There's a guy we played with last year, Jim Miller -- he had a great year in Triple-A, but he's getting a little older and [the Yankees] just got rid of him today. It's like, you know you can pitch, but you have to get the opportunity, and that's the hard part about this game. "

The Twins have undergone a thorough overhaul of their roster since Neshek last played here in 2010, but there's at least one familiar face he can count on seeing when he returns to Target Field -- his younger brother, Paul, who's a Twins ball boy. Earlier this season the younger Neshek, who played in the Little League World Series for nearby Brooklyn Park, made the highlight reels with a leaping catch down the third-base line, saving front-row spectators from a wicked line drive.

"He'd just gotten the job about a month before he made that catch," Neshek said. "I didn't even know he was working here. He was trying to get back on the grounds crew, and that was the only job they had available so he took it. He takes his job pretty seriously. I see him in the highlights every once in a while just missing a ball or making a decent catch -- it's pretty awesome to see. He loves being around the game."

So does his older brother, who's hoping for an opportunity to add another step to his Major League journey next season.

Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.